Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice. You should consult your physician before starting a new exercise program. If your pain is debilitating, sharp or sudden, please see a doctor. The article is addressed to those with healthy backs, who have mild back pain due to incorrect posture while sitting at a desk, or due to slouching over their phones.
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So if you suffer from back pain due to sitting too much at a desk, driving or slouching while using your phone this is for you. Unfortunately, most fall under this categories nowadays. Many people have an incorrect posture while sitting at their desk, they rarely workout and back pain comes creeping in sooner or later. I am one of those who suffer from this type of pain. I have a few tips that have helped me significantly reduce the pain and when I get off track with my workouts I definitely feel it.
The exercises that have helped me fall into too major categories: strength training and yoga. With strength training, you can work those back muscles so you can have better posture. The muscles sustain your spine, help you sit straight. Yoga also strengthens the spine, but in addition it also stretches those muscles for an instant pain relief. Flexibility is also important for preventing injuries, so even if you are not a yoga fan, do not skip the stretches at the end of a work out.
Bent over row
The bent over row is probably my favorite exercise for working those back muscles. I like to keep it varies, so one time I might use dumbbells, then the barbell or I might use the machine. If you are a beginner, I suggest working with a personal trainer at first to make sure your posture is correct. If you can’t afford a PT, you’ll see most gyms have a trainer who will help beginners figure out things in the gym. Finally, if you need more tips on how the bent over row works, check out the instructions in this article.
The lat pulldown another one of my favorites and an exercise with many variations. Other than the benefits of strong muscles that eventually lead to better posture and less back pain, the lat pulldown gives the wanted V-taper for men while for women the well developed lats give the impression of a slimmer waist. How’s that for a bonus? This article from bodybuilding.com gives you 5 variations for the lat pulldown. My favorite is the wide-grip pulldown for sure. The one I never do if the pulldown behind the neck. It doesn’t feel good to me as I tend to accumulate a lot of tension in my neck and shoulders and this exercise increases that tension and the subsequent pain. Always make sure the exercise you are doing is right for you.
Reverse flyes are another versatile exercise that is great for the back. It can be done with dumbbells, elastic bands and machines. Even doing it with no weights at all will make your muscles move and alleviate some of that pain from sitting in a chair all day. Check out this article for more on correct posture for each of the variations.
Yoga & Increasing Flexibility
For a healthy spine, you need to mix things up and keep your spine flexible. If you read my article on my weekly workout routine, you know I like to include at least one yoga session per week. I do both vinyasa and yin yoga. I prefer the flow structure of a vinyasa and I only choose yin or restorative when I feel super tired or sore. But this is only my preference, all yoga styles are great, you just have to find the one that fits your needs.
Twists and binds are probably my favorite postures in yoga. While I can’t do all the advanced versions of every posture, I’ll always include at least one small twist in my practice. The easiest is the laying spinal twist. It’s also the safest as there are small chances of doing it wrong and injuring yourself. If I’m doing a twisting flow, there will definitely be twisting lunges, twisting chairs and more. My favorite class from Youtube at the moment is this awesome Twist & Bind flow by Five Parks Yoga. Twists are not for everyone however, so start small and look from cues from your body. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t!
Heart opening postures are amazing for us people living in the 21st century, always slouching on our computer, the phone, some books, driving and more. I love supported fish with a block. Place a block between your shoulder blades and lay down, fit either in butterfly, extended or knees bend if you have a sensitive low back. I also love heart melting pose as it also provides an amazing stretch for the back. My favorite heart opening class from Youtube is also by Five Parks Yoga and you can check it out here. The post is not sponsored by Five Parks Yoga, I just genuinely love this channel! If you don’t want to do the whole class you might get some more ideas for heart opening postures.
As you probably noticed, most of these exercises address upper back pain, as that’s where I have the most problems. However, sometimes my low back becomes a little sensitive due to all the sitting. Hip openers are a great way to counter pose all those hours spent in a chair. Child pose and reclined pigeon pose feel amazing to me and relief my low back pain instantly. Happy baby is also a pose I always include just before shavasana. If you want a pose that’s a little more intense, try malasana (yogi squat). Five Parks Yoga has a few great hip opening classes. If you are craving some more in the yin area, I suggest the Yoga with Kassandra channel, which is my go-to when I want a yin class.
Strong abs for less back pain
Abs are not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to back pain. However, a strong core is crucial in preventing back pain, especially in the lower back. When low back has hit, it will probably be hard to work your abs without feeling you are doing more good than damage. In that moment, work on relieving the back pain. However, it is crucial to build a strong overall core for better posture. In many yoga classes you will see that back strengthening classes also contain a good portion of core work. Plus, you’ll have great abs! What more can you possibly ask for?
Swimming has always been one of my favorite sports and it’s amazing for back pain as you literally take off any pressure from your back. Breaststroke is my favorite style. If you are not into doing laps, you can just float around while chatting with a friend. While it might not be as effective as doing laps, it will still help relief pain. Swimming is also an amazing full body workout, so don’t overlook it!
If you are still struggling to incorporate exercise into your daily life, check out this article by our guest blogger Annija, about simple ways to make exercise a habit.